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In 2008, Uganda granted hundreds of small groups $400/person to help members start individual skilled trades. Four years on, an experimental evaluation found grants raised earnings by 38% (Blattman, Fiala, Martinez 2014). We return after 9 years to find these start-up grants acted more as a kick-start than a lift out of poverty. Grantees' investment leveled off; controls eventually increased their incomes through business and casual labor; and so both groups converged in employment, earnings, and consumption. Grants had lasting impacts on assets, skilled work, and possibly child health, but had little effect on mortality, fertility, health or education.

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Working Paper
Date:
July 30, 2018
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Do social networks matter for the adoption of new political communication technologies? We collect complete social network data for sixteen Ugandan villages where an innovative reporting mobile platform was recently introduced, and show robust evidence of peer effects on technology adoption. However, peer effects were not observed in all networks. We develop a formal model showing that while peer effects facilitate adoption of technologies with minimal externalities (like agricultural practices), it can be more difficult for innovations with significant positive externalities to spread through a network. Early adopters might exaggerate benefits, leading others to discount information about the technology’s value. Thus, peer effects are likely to emerge only where informal institutions support truthful communication. We show that the observable implications of our model are borne out in the data. These impediments to social diffusion might help explain the slow and varied uptake of new political communication technologies around the world.

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Working Paper
Date:
January 23, 2018
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Politicians shirk when their performance is obscure to constituents. We theorize that when politician performance information is disseminated early in the electoral term, politicians will subsequently improve their performance in anticipation of changes in citizens’ evaluative criteria and possible challenger entry in the next election. However, politicians may only respond in constituencies where opposition has previously mounted. We test these predictions in partnership with a Ugandan civil society organization in a multiyear field experiment conducted in 20 district governments between the 2011 and 2016 elections. While the organization published yearly job duty performance scorecards for all incumbents, it disseminated the scorecards to constituents for randomly selected politicians. These dissemination efforts induced politicians to improve performance across a range of measures, but only in competitive constituencies. Service delivery was unaffected. We conclude that, conditional on electoral pressure, transparency can improve politicians’ performance between elections but not outcomes outside of their control.

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Published Paper
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December 01, 2017

Can programmatic extensions such as training and mentorship enhance the economic impact of cash transfers, or do they needlessly absorb resources that program recipients could allocate more meaningfully by themselves? Using a randomized trial, we evaluate a program that targets poor Ugandans and offers them an integrated package comprised of lump sum transfers, coaching, and training on microenterprise development as well as savings group formation. We assess its impact and that of its savings component, as well as the impacts of much simplified program variants: one intervention variant that is limited to lump sum cash transfers and another that expands upon transfers using a light-touch behavioral intervention component. The results support the notion that integrated development interventions are sensible poverty reduction tools.

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Working Paper
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September 26, 2017
English

In Uganda, preliminary findings suggest watching video interviews of parliamentary candidates during party primary and multiparty elections increases knowledge about the candidates and increases the likelihood that voters change away from their intended vote choice on Election Day.

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Brief
Date:
August 07, 2017
English

Research on intrahousehold decision making often finds that fathers have more decision-making power than mothers, but mothers put more weight on children’s well-being. One policy response has been to try to shift decision-making power toward mothers, for example by making mothers the recipient of transfers aimed at improving children’s welfare (Lundberg, Pollak, and Wales 1997). However, changing decision making in the family is not always feasible or advisable. In such cases, the divergent preferences and decision making of parents suggest a trade-off when targeting policies to improve children’s well-being. On the one hand, fathers have more power to change household behavior in ways that help children. On the other hand, mothers might have a stronger desire to do so. This trade-off might be especially stark in developing countries where women have especially low bargaining power (Jayachandran 2015).

We study this trade-off in the context of classes that teach parents low-cost ways to improve child health. Our setting is Uganda. Many simple, inexpensive behaviors that promote child health such as boiling drinking water, exclusively breastfeeding newborns, spacing births, and using antimalarial bed nets have low take-up, and increasing their adoption could reduce child malnutrition and mortality (Bhutta et al. 2013). We compare village-level parenting classes for mothers, which were held over the course of a year and encouraged these health-promoting behaviors, to similar classes for fathers. For the reasons discussed above, it is ambiguous whether targeting the classes to mothers or fathers will be more effective. In addition to contributing to the literature on intrahousehold decision making, this paper is one of the first to rigorously study whether mothers’ and fathers’ knowledge have different
impacts on child health.

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Published Paper
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June 01, 2017

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